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Oxidant production from source-oriented particulate matter – Part 1: Oxidative potential using the dithiothreitol (DTT) assay


Abstract. Recent epidemiological evidence supports the hypothesis that health effects from inhalation of ambient particulate matter (PM) are governed by more than just the mass of PM inhaled. Both specific chemical components and sources have been identified as important contributors to mortality and hospital admissions, even when these endpoints are unrelated to PM mass. Sources may cause adverse health effects via their ability to produce reactive oxygen species, possibly due to the transition metal content of the PM. Our goal is to quantify the oxidative potential of ambient particle sources collected during two seasons in Fresno, CA using the dithiothreitol (DTT) assay. We collected PM from different sources or source combinations into different ChemVol (CV) samplers in real time using a novel source-oriented sampling technique based on single particle mass spectrometry. We segregated the particles from each source-oriented mixture into two size fractions – ultrafine (Dp ≤ 0.17 μm) and submicron fine (0.17 μm ≤ Dp ≤ 1.0 μm) – and measured metals and the rate of DTT loss in each PM extract. We find that the mass-normalized oxidative potential of different sources varies by up to a actor of 8 and that submicron fine PM typically has a larger mass-normalized oxidative potential than ultrafine PM from the same source. Vehicular Emissions, Regional Source Mix, Commute Hours, Daytime Mixed Layer and Nighttime Inversion sources exhibit the highest mass-normalized oxidative potential. When we apportion the volume-normalized oxidative potential, which also accounts for the source's prevalence, cooking sources account for 18–29% of the total DTT loss while mobile (traffic) sources account for 16–28%. When we apportion DTT activity for total PM sampled to specific chemical compounds, soluble copper accounts for roughly 50% of total air-volume-normalized oxidative potential, soluble manganese accounts for 20%, and other unknown species, likely including quinones and other organics, account for 30%. During nighttime, soluble copper and manganese largely explain the oxidative potential of PM, while daytime has a larger contribution from unknown (likely organic) species.

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